A journey with the Space Battleship Yamato

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For better or worse, I tend to go overboard with my hobbies. What was supposed to be a dalliance with photography turned into a full-time job. My love for tinkering of PCs has kept me working with, and currently, in the IT industry. And about a year ago, I started to get fascinated with Bandai model kits and now I have more paint bottles and unopened model kits than I can keep track of.

I’ve been trying out various grades of Gundam model kits to develop my airbrushing and assembly skills. But when I found this Space Battleship Yamato 1/500 scale model kit, I knew that this would be the one kit to pour all my learning into.

Now let it be clear that I don’t really like battleships, whether they are WWII models or even Star Destroyers. It’s more fascinating to admire the small planes that take up space on a carrier (eg. Tomcat, Phantom etc). And I remember building a few ship models when I was in primary school and hating the whole gluey mess along with ridiculously small parts.

But the Yamato is different. For one thing, this formed part of our childhood memories. Our generation of boys watched dozens of iconic Japanese cartoons when they aired randomly on SBC’s Channel 8 during the 1970s and 1980s. With little to do in the house in those days before the Internet or Xbox, one could spend hours just watching different anime dubbed in Mandarin. And the unique mix of a traditional Japanese warship with futuristic space cruiser elements really sticks in the mind for decades.

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Bandai cashed in on the Takuya Kimura movie vehicle late last year with this new plastic model kit that stretches across 70cm in length. Before I started on the kit, I looked around the Internet to see how others had built their versions. Without painting, the kit looks like a big piece of flat plastic. OK, many different pieces of plastic.

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But I also wondered how much “realism” or weathering effects to give this baby. As I’ve gotten more into this “gunpla” hobby, I have observed that too many people spend big money on kits and airbrushing systems without understanding the basics of aesthetics.

For example. I would look at some of the showcase models at some of the hobby shops in Singapore and shake my head at the over-Gundam shading done on beautiful models. Less is more, folks. In my case, my background in art and photography does help me visualize the final look of my kits.

Now while I would prefer a cleanly painted and glossy robot that looked like it just stepped out of the factory, the Yamato demands a dirty or aged look. The anime and movie are set in dire times for humanity, and the Yamato first emerges from its underground factory, breaking through concrete and mud. A flat coat of paint would not give the Yamato the character it deserves – so there was not much choice but to give it gradated airbrushing and further washes of grey to bring about the post-apocalyptic look.

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This project took about three months, or perhaps eight to ten man days. A lot faster than the last Votoms Scopedog project that took nearly a year thanks to prolonged procrastination.

Overall, I would say that the Yamato is relatively easy to build until you come to the small parts. On some turrets, some plastic pieces broke off (combination of thin plastic parts and several layers of paint) and I either glued them back or just threw them away. The nice thing about a “weathered” look is that you can always claim it was “battle damage” when it comes to missing or broken parts.

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On one hand I was terrified of losing the tiny turret parts (there are about 34 turrets if I counted correctly). On the other hand, pressing them into the main ship body really caused my fingertips to hurt, and a few other hull parts cracked in the process.

The other difficulty I had was deciding what shade of medium blue to use. The red was easy – just go for a screaming red tone like a Ferrari. The blue was tough because if you go for the default blue that the plastic was moulded in, the whole ship looks too dull. A lighter blue would allow for more details to be called out, but would not contrast well with the red lower hull. Personally I think I could have used a deeper shade of blue but what the heck.

The other odd thing I noticed was during the final panel lining stage, using black enamel paint to wash over the base acrylic coats. With the semi-glossy red portions, it was easy to remove excess wash with thinner. With the dull blue portions, the enamel paint was very hard to remove with enamel thinner so I had to work fast and use it to create more weathering effects like vertical streaks across the hull. Perhaps I had to coat the entire ship with a glossy coat before I did the panel lining.

Oh well, live and learn. Enjoy the pics, taken with my trusty Canon 5D. Which I had trouble taking in my cramped HDB apartment because this ship is just so long!

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3 Replies to “A journey with the Space Battleship Yamato”

  1. ….great observationals. And greater Burden of future observation when the kids are running around the house like construction-site demolition balls. God bless bro….!

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